Neurological: Reflex sympathetic dystrophy

Reflex sympathetic dystrophy, or complex regional pain syndrome, is a serious condition that can cause severe pain and disability. (View Wikipedia for detailed description.)

I was asked to visit an 83 year old woman who had suffered from this condition for more than a year, at her home to check her blood pressure. This was important, because one of the drugs she was taking for her condition sometimes caused dangerous lowering of blood pressure.

For no apparent reason, she developed pain, tingling, and inability to move her fingers on her right hand. Because she was unresponsive to anti-inflammatory medications and pain-killers, her orthopedic surgeon recommended surgery to “free-up” the ulnar nerve at the elbow that supplied the forearm and hand. (See red circle in the picture.) This area is better known as the “funny bone”. The operation was intended to relieve pressure on the nerve and ease the pain. Unfortunately, the nerve was damaged, causing severe pain, darkening of the skin and paralysis of the forearm and hand. Unable to bend her elbow or drive her car, she was confined to her to her home.

She was suffering from a condition called “reflex sympathetic dystrophy”.

Red circle shows where the ulnar nerve was entrapped at the elbow.
Red circle shows where the ulnar nerve was entrapped at the elbow.

On my first visit, her hand had been unusable and agonisingly painful for 12 months. Finger movement was impossible, and poor blood circulation caused the skin on the whole of her hand and forearm to turn deep blue, and icy cold. Neither physiology nor medication helped.

I explained to my patient that a week or so before, I had used the wheatgrass extract successfully on a 2 year old's hands and feet that had suddenly gone cold and blue due to Raynaud's disease, a blood circulation condition. After applying a small amount of wheatgrass extract to one cold hand, her blood circulation recovered within a few minutes to both hands and feet. 

My patient then asked me to try the extract on her arm. I squeezed a little blob of wheatgrass cream on to a toothpick then very carefully applied it in a thin line, along her forearm and hand. As I did so, I was amazed to see a thin, blanched line form instantaneously which then began to widen irregularly, but continuously. Then, within two or three minutes, the entire dark-coloured area turned white, then pink and warm due apparently to the return of blood supply to the area. (At the time, I wondered how this rapid "spreading" of blood circulation could occur.

After about three minutes, both her hands had turned warm and pink. This suggested that neurotransmission had crossed the spinal cord where it increased blood circulation. Also, few minutes later, she regained full sensation in the hand and the shooting pains that made her life such a misery had disappeared. She could also move her "paralysed" fingers  for the first time in a year.

Follow up

When I dropped in two days later, she was not happy. Her symptoms were only relieved for two or three hours, after which the pain returned, so she was reluctant to try the cream again on her arm, but did agree to me applying some wheatgrass cream over the ulnar at the elbow. Remarkably, this brought immediate pain relief of her forearm and hand and increased the range of movement of her elbow. There clearly were some quite dramatic positive changes affecting the blood circulation and various nerve channels supplying her arm and hand.

What seemed to have happened was that the wheatgrass extract reconnected damaged sensory nerves to the brain. that they had been "re-coupled", which restored sensation ("feeling"), plus blood circulation and muscular movement.

Even though Mrs. G. refused further "treatment" with wheatgrass extract, there had clearly been complex physiological improvement that, for a short period of time, stopped her pain and restored blood supply, sensation and movement to her forearm and hand.

Dr. Chris Reynolds.

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